The scaphoid bone is one of the small bones in the carpal area of your hand, and it reminds of a large cashew nut. It is one of the most crucial parts of the wrist mechanism as it connects the two rows of the wrist bones and coordinates their motion.
As we know, the symptoms of a fractured scaphoid can be often overlooked, completely ignored, or even mistaken for a sprain of the wrist. This is mostly because of the lack of pain and the overall subtlety of the symptoms. Unfortunately, this means that it can be months or even years before the injury becomes diagnosed, which can lead to some long term consequences and arthritis.
There are several methods your doctor can use to determine if your scaphoid if fractured:
- X-ray – the first and foremost diagnosis method is an x-ray. Sometimes, however, a fracture cannot be seen under the x-ray, but it is still one of the first methods used.
- CT scan – If the x-ray is inconclusive, a CT scan may be needed. This method works with a highly sensitive tool designed for early diagnosis
- MRI – Magnetic resonance imaging, or simply MRI, is a highly accurate method that also provides all the information about the blood supply to the bone. MRI can detect an injury on the same day that it happened, however, it is more costly than the standard CT or bone scan or X-ray.
One of the main challenges of treating this type of fracture is the long healing time due to the blood supply to the area, which is the main reason for the prolonged healing. On average, the approximate time for the healing of a fractured scaphoid is twelve weeks IF treated immediately. However, if the treatment and the diagnosis are delayed, whether due to the lack of symptoms, or neglection, that time expands to as long as six months.
A non-displaced scaphoid fracture can be treated with a long cast for 4 weeks, followed by six to eight weeks in a short cast. However, most patients with non-displaced scaphoid fracture will be immobilized for at least ten to twelve weeks, and this period can be extended if needed.
Displaced scaphoid fractures, on the other hand, have to be treated more aggressively, since they are, of course, more complicated to heal. In these cases, the healing time can extend to as long as six months or longer, depending on the severity of the fracture.
In some cases, a fractured scaphoid can take over a year to feel normal again. This usually happens with the neglected and untreated fractures, as some additional issues may arise from the injury.
If you are impatient and rush back into regular activities while cutting down on the treatment period, you are risking another injury and setting yourself for a surgery in the future. Scaphoid fractures are not like regular broken bones due to poor blood flow to the area, so being patient and listening to your doctor’s advice is essential for the successful healing of the bone. Yes, the healing time is slow, but in the end, worth it.
What You Can Do About It?
To promote the healing, you can always do a few things yourself. Make sure to elevate your arm as much as possible, especially after the surgery. Move your fingers if you can, but do not move your thumb.
Make your arms strong. Do some biceps and triceps exercises, and make sure you move those deltoids, as strong muscles will help alleviate the pressure from the bone. Move your shoulders to wake up your muscles, and don’t be afraid to exercise.
Eat well. You will need a lot of vitamins and nutrients to help your body heal, especially since healing a broken bone takes a lot of energy. If you are a smoker, consider quitting, as nicotine and other harmful substances found in cigarettes do not help with the blood flow, and, as we know, the scaphoid bone is famous for the poor blood supply it gets.